In with the new, out with the old
It doesn't really matter which poll you consult — Zogby, Pew, Gallup — they all show the same thing: Incoming president Barack Obama is hitting new highs in public support, while outgoing President George W. Bush is hitting new lows.
To be fair, it's like comparing apples and oranges: Bush's record includes 9/11, Katrina, two wars, a controversial re-election, and an economic meltdown of historic proportions. Meanwhile, Obama's record includes a low-key decade as a state senator and U.S. senator.
But there's no denying the numbers are impressive. Even Obama's incoming numbers are handing Bush's a thrashing — a pre-inaugural poll by Pew Research Center finds that 79 percent of Americans have a "favorable impression" of the incoming leader. In 2001, George W. Bush had to make do with 60 percent. Pew reports that Obama even has more optimists on his side:
As is typically the case at this stage, most Americans think it is too early to tell whether Obama will be a successful or unsuccessful president. Yet optimists far outnumber pessimists (30% successful vs. 4% unsuccessful). At a comparable point in 2001, 26% said they expected Bush to be successful, compared with 15% who said he would be unsuccessful.
Perhaps more important, these optimists are also willing to be patient. According to the latest New York Times/CBS News:
Most Americans said they did not expect real progress in improving the economy, reforming the health care system or ending the war in Iraq — three of the central promises of Mr. Obama's campaign — for at least two years.
In his victory speech at Chicago's Grant Park, Obama set the stage, warning that there was a hard slog ahead:
"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there."
Not everyone is willing to be so patient, however. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh lambasted Obama's supporters:
"They didn't give Bush a chance in 2000. Before he was inaugurated, the search-and-destroy mission had begun. I'm not talking about search-and-destroy, but I've been listening to Barack Obama for a year and a half. I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don't want them to succeed."
Bush isn't facing downhill numbers alone. Trust in his party is waning as well. A Washington Post-ABC News poll reports that "just 23 percent said they trust Republicans more than Democrats to handle the main problems facing the nation."
But Bush is confident he will be remembered well, despite leaving office with the highest disapproval rating since Nixon. In his farewell speech to the nation, he defended his presidency:
"You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made, but I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions."
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice agreed, saying, "I think generations pretty soon are going to start to thank this president for what he's done. This generation will."
But the nation is still facing two wars and recession with no end in sight; whether anyone will be thanking Bush or Obama for anything remains to be seen.
- Lili Ladaga